Rebuilding Rotted Dormers – Adventures of a Schloegel Handyman

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Last updated on December 20, 2022

This project is a cautionary tale for homeowners. When a home isn't properly caulked and painted, the wood is a good environment for the fungi that cause rot. Wood rot is a sign that water is getting to unsealed wood, and it will continue to spread as long as the issue remains unaddressed. Unfortunately, the front of this house showed years of patching over rot and not addressing the root cause. 

The damage required replacing or patching the majority of the siding, soffits, and trim and much of the framing to which it had been attached. It had rotted from years of precipitation improperly shed by the roofing system.

We replaced the siding with rot-proof fiber cement panels from Hardie and the trim with rot-proof polymerized ash (Boral) from TruExterior.

Siding and Front Caps

Replacing the dormer siding entailed cutting it off around the stucco and the soffit, as both were built over the siding. The removed siding pieces were either too rotted or too poorly cut initially to use as templates for their replacements, so the project involved a lot of measurements. 

While most of the cutting could be done with a circular saw, the details required a jigsaw

For the front cap, I cut the piece long and put it in place to measure and mark the exact cuts to fit along the slope of the roof.

Some sections were worse than others, and this corner had seen enough water intrusion to rot the framing and a bit of the soffit.

We replaced the framing and decided to Bondo the section of soffit rather than disturb what might be a delicate mess. A chunk of sheet material served as the backer for the Bondo filler. 

Another set of measurements, four cuts, and the last piece of siding was replaced.

On a side note, can we take a moment to appreciate the simplicity of a chalk line? Stretch it from point a to b, snap it, and you have a perfect line!

Arches

Replacing the arch pieces required some trial and error, but by the time we got to the fourth one, we had the process pretty refined. The first step was to remove the piece with as little damage to the shape as possible, which meant finding and pulling every nail attaching it.

We then determined the overall length of the replacement piece, the width of the front pieces against which it would sit flush, and the width of the inside arch. From there, we placed the template piece to fit as well as possible with our strict dimensions, doing some measuring to ensure it was all laying out correctly. We traced it, filled in any missing lines, and cut it out with a jigsaw. 

Soffit and Fascia

For the last piece of soffit repair, a Bondo patch would not hold up. Removing the fascia that was starting to rot revealed a section of framing that had disintegrated completely and rot that had spread the length of the soffit.

I took some measurements and went down to cut blocks of framing that would hold the soffit, sheets to build the sub-fascia to the correct depth, and the final fascia piece.

As is often the case, my planning didn't eliminate a few more trips up and down the ladder. The middle rafter tail had to be cut up and built back down, and the sub-fascia required a more custom degree of leveling. 

At least my fascia piece was a perfect fit, as was the soffit on the first try!

Wrap-up

With the small patches Bondoed and all the rest replaced, it was time for a total cleanup. We swept up all the rotted wood chunks, insulation from soffits, and nails; removed the walkboard from the roof; and loaded our excess materials and the dozens of tools involved in the process. 

Take Note

Once the homeowners address the roofing issues that allowed in so much water, our rot-proof repairs should hold as long as the house itself. 

When you notice the first sign of wood rot on your house, please seek a professional to find the rot you haven't noticed and determine the causes for it!

A fresh coat of paint on the whole house, and everything looks better than new!

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